Monday I sat down with Wests Tigers Chief Executive Officer Stephen Humphreys and Senior Manager for Communications and Membership, Robyn Danzey.
It was never going to be anything more than a chat and a chance for the Tigers to explain themselves after a story of mine got their attention.
To say the Tigers are in a tight spot regarding the management of rugby league in South Western Sydney is an understatement. After speaking with Mr. Humphreys, I can honestly say that I believe him when he says they are doing all they can right now to help the district. Their hands are well and truly tied.
Mr. Humphreys is obviously an intelligent man and his heart is in the right place. And considering the great contribution his father made to the game, I wouldn’t doubt that for a second. I could tell on Monday that he was frustrated with the view some in the Macarthur region had taken against the Wests Tigers.
Hence the invitation they sent me.
“There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the management of our game in South West Sydney needs to be the top priority – from grassroots through to the elite level” Humphreys said.
“In a strategic sense, the area is just too important to receive anything other than top billing. At the moment, there are a number of separate bodies involved in managing the interests of the game and its participants across South West Sydney and despite all of their best endeavours, the efforts are uncoordinated and rather dysfunctional.
“I understand that there is an expectation for Wests Tigers to play the lead role as the strong NRL brand in the region. Whilst we are ready to take on this additional responsibility, there would need to be a significant change to the structures and processes that are currently in place to allow this to happen.”
Therein lies the problem. Currently we have Wests Magpies, the Wests Junior League, NSW Rugby League, Country Rugby League and Group 6 (Juniors and Seniors) all involved in the management of Rugby League in South West Sydney. Clearly there is a case for change and streamlining of the game’s administration across the region.
Lets get one thing clear. Over the year my stance on the Wests Magpies has changed. For the sake of the Wests Tigers and growth as a club, there is no place for the Magpies at a senior level in 2012. Hard to say for an old Magpie supporter.
The Wests Magpies NSW Cup side is being run this season at a cost of $500,000 which is funded by Wests Ashfield Leagues Club. The Magpies are 0-16 with a for and against of 172-910. That’s half a million dollars for the people playing at home.
An overhaul is required and loyalties need to die for business to prosper. It is the coldest truth, but that’s what has to happen. In this modern world, good business is loyalty.
My problem is with growth of the game in Macarthur. I told Mr. Humphreys that I felt that the massive nursery in Sydney South’s West was being left behind and there wasn’t enough work being done in the area. That the Wests Tigers shouldn’t be content in being number one in the region, but to “take it by the balls”.
What people may not know is that the Western Suburbs Magpies actually have no ties with the junior league. The junior league runs itself. When the Magpies came to Campbelltown in the 1980’s, they didn’t align themselves with the junior league. So the junior league got themselves an ABN. To my knowledge this is the only junior league in Sydney that runs as a public company.
WSDJRL don’t answer to anyone. They are a law unto themselves. Who decided these people have the honour of running the game our kids play?
Whilst we don’t agree on everything, Mr. Humphreys and I did agree that the junior system and its programmes needed to be streamlined so that the kids and administrators alike had a simple understanding of what the future holds. That can’t happen under the current structure.
The Wests Tigers continue to do good things for the Macarthur through their charity programmes and continued construction around the Campbelltown Stadium precinct. The Club has declared its intention to base the Under 20’s youth side in the Macarthur area. This is a big step in the right direction and signals the commitment to continually grow the profile and presence of the Club in the region.
But the problem is the continued erosion of what should be a juggernaut. Rugby League in Macarthur will never die, but people sure are trying to hurt it. The Wests Tigers need total control to make this work.
Geographically, the Wests Tigers are blessed and cursed to have the supporter boundaries they have. The sooner people are educated about who and what is happening, the quicker they will side with the Wests Tigers.